How would you react to seeing your child getting pushed over?
The other weekend, to celebrate my nephew’s birthday with the sister-in-law, we as a family hit the Halloween-themed edition of Raver Tots in Southend.
Taking place at Garon Park in the same Southend location as the summer festivals, but this time under cover in a large gazebo as a precaution against the unpredictable British weather, mummies and baddies, boils and ghouls, were all encouraged to dress up in keeping with the big day. Although some of us put in more effort than others, but I won’t drop names… I’ll add photo evidence instead.
As has been the case with each visit to a Raver Tots event, we were having a good time to the naughty fusion of garage and drum and bass, with both Roma and Maverick running and jumping around the room after some initial hesitance and clinginess caused by the varying creepiness of costumes people were wearing.
Despite the crisp autumnal air, it was a dry day so we went to look outside and see what was going on. There was a burger van, sweet stall, toys up for grabs, merch sellers and, the holy grail for all kids, a soft play.
Now, bearing in mind the name of the event is Raver Tots, the soft play area was probably best suited to those aged four and under. Maybe five at most, depending on their size. But I’ve come to realise that when it comes to soft play, so many parents think it’s an opportunity to leave their kids to it. I experienced this to another level about 18 months ago when one dad, who I’d never before seen in my life, asked whether I could watch his daughter since I was in there with Roma – only to then disappear for an hour.
This time around, I wasn’t asked to open up Daddy Day Care again, thankfully, because I was too busy watching Roma – y’know, like a parent ought to. It’s just as well, it was like a Royal Rumble in there. In hindsight, I should have live-streamed the event and started charging people for access. And like any good wrestler, Roma can hold her own but Maverick, my nephew, is very timid, so he was struggling to get a look in at the slide as I came to realise the British talent of queueing isn’t something most toddlers are accustomed to. So while I was shadowing Roma from the outside like a tag team partner, I kept my eye on him too, as many of the kids in there had clearly been at the Halloween candy and were consumed by a sugar-fuelled frenzy.
I know kids get carried away – I see it first-hand with Roma and Maverick. However, they’re cousins and spend a lot of time playing together, so it stands to reason they’re going to annoy each other and clash from time to time, especially as they’re both now two and become at risk of throwing an impromptu wobbly. Regardless, they’ll be reprimanded accordingly if they’re stepping out of line.
But when another toddler, who Roma hadn’t so much as looked at, came barrelling out of nowhere and pushed her over, I was suddenly fired up with all the adrenaline of someone who had just been cracked with a steel chair.
My immediate response and the word that came stampeding out of my mouth in pure shock and outrage was a furious “Oiii!”
I had no idea who was looking and, frankly, I didn’t care. My main concern was making sure Roma was okay. Thankfully unharmed, but visibly shaken and confused, she was fine. I scooped her up and looked around for the owner of the child responsible for the sucker push. I didn’t have to look far – his dad had appeared next to me.
This could have gone one of two ways, depending on the calibre and mental capacity of the child’s parent. Helpfully, the dad was just as furious at his son and told him off, then proceeding to apologise to me.
Then the mum appeared. Again, this could have still gone sideways, but she reinforced what the dad had already done and even withdrew the boy from the soft play as a punishment before continuing to explain how sorry she was, that he’s going through the terrible twos, which I empathised with knowing what Roma’s moods can be like, before she even went on to joke: “He’s not abused at home, I swear!”
The situation was squashed. I’d gone from Hulk back to Bruce Banner. From the dad’s handling of what’d happened alone I was already placated but the mum’s additional discipline was heartening. The reason for that is I’ve seen it so many times where parents aren’t around to see their child’s misbehaviour or rudeness and, if they are, they try to justify it.
I was at the park with Roma a month or so ago when some slightly older child charged past and shoved her out the way. The exchange that followed went something like this:
Me: “Oi!” – That’s apparently my go-to phrase.
Child: Not so much as a backwards glance.
Child’s mum (who appeared to not be present since his behaviour wasn’t addressed):
“He’s a child, lovie” – in a “kids will be kids” type of voice.
Me: “Well you want to try and control your child then, don’t you?” – in a, sort your shit out so your child doesn’t go around pushing my mine or anyone else’s, and I’m not your lovie, type of voice.
But back to the soft play where the pusher had just been carted away to solitary confinement and I was still on edge.
The children were running around like wild animals, which would have been bad enough anyway, but there were some kids far too old to be in there, around 11 and 9, darting about like lunatics with no regard for those half their size – who were entitled to be in there.
What made matters worse was the fact that these tweens were charging about recklessly wielding toy rifles, swinging them about like crazy. At one point I saw the larger lad actually clamber up the inflatable slide and over what must have been an 18-month-old who was sliding down it. Where were their parents?! And what was going through their minds?
Needless to say I was still on red alert for them to go anywhere near Roma or Maverick but it became so frenetic in there that we were all on tenterhooks just waiting for an accident to happen and decided to call it a day on soft play. Especially when my sister-in-law heard the words: “One more kill!” being screeched by one of the gunmen.
Everyone understandably has their own parenting style and I don’t profess to be the perfect father, so I don’t go around judging what everyone else is doing. But one thing I don’t mess around with is discipline as I try to ensure that Roma knows right from wrong. For example, I don’t think she’ll be throwing a back of M&Ms in my face again anytime soon like she did the other night.
Like the parents of the boy who pushed Roma over, I’d be embarrassed if she did such a thing to another child and would have acted in exactly the same way they did – it’d be game over. So when you do see those kids who get away with all sorts at these types of play areas, shrugging it off or using wilful ignorance, you can’t help but point the finger at the parent and wonder: How would you react to seeing your child getting pushed over?